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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Daryl Van Schouwen

White Sox center fielder Luis Robert Jr. a gem that stood out among the rest

White Sox center fielder Luis Robert Jr. makes a diving catch on a ball hit by Baltimore Orioles’ Adley Rutschman on Aug. 28, 2023, in Baltimore. (AP) (AP Photos)

Luis Robert Jr. added silver to the gold on his mantel. A World Series ring on his finger is what he really wants.

Considering where the White Sox are, however, Robert probably can put off a fitting for a while.

Unless the Sox trade him. Which seems like a bizarre thing to consider, being that Robert is far and away the best position player on their roster.

He is the type of player — in center field, no less — the Sox need to be relevant. But general manager Chris Getz didn’t rule out the possibility, slim as it might be, of listening to what other teams would offer for Robert, 26, who won his first American League Silver Slugger last week, three seasons after winning a Gold Glove as a rookie.

‘‘If there is something that makes sense, so be it, but Luis Robert is a guy you build around,’’ Getz said at the general managers meetings last week.

‘‘I don’t want to be shortsighted or close-minded in any way. If there is a way to help our ballclub both now and in the future, we have to consider that.’’

It would take some moxie on Getz’s part — and a knock-your-socks-off deal that would bring multiple young players and/or prospects to solidify a lacking roster — to send Robert to another team. He signed a six-year, $50 million deal in 2020, which makes him appealing on the trade market.

Robert will be paid $12.5 million in 2024 and $15 million in 2025 in the fifth and six years of his contract, with the Sox holding $20 million options in 2026 and 2027.

Robert’s first Silver Slugger, given to the best offensive player at each position, came after he batted .264/.315/.542 with 38 home runs, 36 doubles, one triple and 80 RBI in a career-high 145 games.

‘‘My goal is to win every single award that exists in baseball,’’ Robert said through a translator. ‘‘But the biggest one, my biggest goal, is to win a World Series ring, to be a World Series champion.’’

Robert, who also was a Gold Glove finalist in 2023, was tied for second in the AL in extra-base hits with 75, was third in homers and slugging percentage, fifth in OPS (.857) and seventh in total bases (296).

Fleet and powerful, Robert made better reads on fly balls, covered both gaps with relative ease and made multiple catches above the yellow lines of outfield walls. He made his first All-Star Game and was the first player in franchise history with 35-plus homers, 35-plus doubles, 80-plus RBI, 90-plus runs scored and 20-plus stolen bases in a season.

He was truly a rare highlight reel for a Sox team that finished 61-101.

Aside from minor setbacks, Robert showed he could stay healthy and improved his chase rate at the plate.

‘‘One of the keys for me, for my success, I was able to recognize pitches in the strike zone,’’ he said. ‘‘But I still have room to improve and to get better.’’

Robert missed the last week of the season with a sprained ligament in his left knee.

‘‘I saw the doctors [last] Monday, and everything went well,’’ he said. ‘‘I start next week doing what I usually do in the offseason.’’

Robert said every player on the Sox must make it a goal to be better next year.

‘‘I put myself as an example,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to get better. I want to do better. I want to improve. That should be the goal we share for next year.’’

New hitting coach Marcus Thames hasn’t worked with Robert yet, but he knows from seeing him that ‘‘he’s a talented young man.’’

‘‘Seeing him from the other dugout, he’s got a lot of talent, and I know he wants to be even better,’’ Thames said. ‘‘So it’s going to be my job and [assistant hitting coach Mike Tosar’s] job to really tap into and try to get him to the next level.’’ 

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